Exploring prehistoric art reveals several human representations that characterise the field of painting now referred to as portraiture. For its modern incarnation portraiture required a specific history and cultural environment to evolve in the way that it has manifested itself throughout history in many different ways and for very different purposes. During the modern era portraiture continued to exist in both traditional European and American styles.
Alongside these established practices, experimentation in formal technique thrived in the arts, stimulated by the new technology that rendered realism all but obsolete. In consideration of the artists’ intentions, who participated in such revolutionary movements, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that modernism brought forth a new kind of realism. In contrast with the realism of the photograph, modernism introduced the realism of the eye, complete with all of its deceptions and mental impositions. Recently the Khaas Gallery in Islamabad organised a solo exhibition by Karachi-based artist Moeen Faruqi titled, ‘Kahaniyan’ or stories. The exhibition is composed of 12 acrylics on canvas paintings all individually unique yet have a different story to tell. The narrative that trails Faruqi’s paintings is magnanimously striking, whereby chunks of colour are mostly painted in a cubist style.
Without defining creation in the literal sense, his work manifests originality, the faces and forms are visual abbreviations of the given theme. Having showcased his work within Pakistan and abroad, Faruqi is an individual of many talents such as being the curator of several shows and writing literary reviews for different journals.
Instead of portraying the human compositions and portraits in a classical grandeur, Faruqi gives the allusion of a dramatically distorted environment and surrounding, one which the viewer can question repeatedly. The faces are unruffled, calm and there is a strong hint of playfulness which yet again perturbs the viewer. His images are shaped by dauntless and bold lines with thick applications of bright paint, one is reminded of son et lumiere and vibrancy is fused with aberration.
Breaking away from the conventional, the portraits are larger than life but seem fabricated showing a side much more isolated in nature than what appears to be on the surface. Faruqi’s colour transitions are interesting when closely looked at creating a sensation of dominance of one colour over another. In some images the warmer areas have supremacy on the more neutral cooler colours and this quality is reciprocated in others.
Claustrophobia and playful references are an integral dimension of his ingenuity with nuances of cubism. Without doubt there is a movement, rhythm and energy that exudes from Faruqi’s work but a sense of displacement and isolation is a factor present as well. The faces are seemingly set apart from the immediate surroundings as if the figure’s is lost and in a self-absorbent world. One can perceive undercurrents of chaos and theatrical eccentricities where surrealism and abstraction come to life. Qualities such as these rarely merge together so harmoniously as evident in Faruqi’s unique imagery.